September 30, 2023

A Day of Sunim, Dallas(Sep 14, 2023)

“My wife told me to reduce my hobby hours for my child’s education, what should I do?”

2023.9.14 Overseas Dharma Talk Tour (15) Dallas

Today, the fifteenth lecture of Ven. Pomnyun Sunim’s overseas tour in 2023 was held in Dallas, Texas, in the central United States. The venue for today’s Dharma Talk is the Horizon Unitarian Universalist Church.

This was Sunim’s fifth visit to Dallas, following 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2019. At 7 p.m. sharp, Sunim began the Dharma Talk. About 160 people filled the small church.

24 people signed up to ask questions, but only 7 had the opportunity to engage in a conversation with Sunim during the two hours given.

One of them said he loved tennis very much, but was frustrated by his wife’s suggestion that he reduce his exercise time for the sake of his child’s education. He asked what the solution to this dilemma might be.

My wife told me to reduce my hobby hours for my child’s education, what should I do?

“I am a person who really loves playing tennis. I have been playing tennis a lot since my college days and was active in club activities. Fourteen years ago, I met my beloved wife. I love tennis so much that I play for three hours at least three times a week. But since last year, my wife has been telling me to only play it once a week. I have a son in middle school, and the reason was that my son’s education would go well if his father stayed at home. My favorite hobby is tennis, but when she tells me not to play it, my heart feels very heavy and painful. Nevertheless, out of respect for my wife’s opinion, I have been playing tennis only once a week. Instead, she suggested that I could play during the day. However, it is difficult to play tennis in Dallas during the day because it’s too hot. I have to go to the tennis court at night so I can meet people and play tennis. In the early days of our marriage, she made an agreement that I could play tennis whenever I wanted, but I didn’t receive a written pledge at the time, which is why I am in trouble now. I have earned  a lot of money for my family, so I feel frustrated as to why I’m facing this challenge. I love my wife, but how can I overcome this frustrating feeling?”

“Do you have any money?”

“Yes, I have enough to live on.”

“Then you spend some money to build an air-conditioned tennis court in a quiet space, and then play tennis there during the day.”

“You want me to play tennis alone?”

“You can create an air-conditioned tennis court and invite friends to play there. If you provide a tennis court for free, there’s no reason for people not to come. Or, finance the tennis court you play at and install air conditioning. If you have the money, you can do that. If you don’t have the money, it’s impossible. Meeting both your desire to play tennis and your wife’s needs is bound to cost you some money.”

“It seems like it would cost too much money. Land prices in Dallas are quite high.”

“Dallas has a lot of land, so if you find a place on the outskirts, it won’t cost a lot of money.” 

“There’s a problem of having to go out of town for an hour.” 

“You can go out of town for about an hour during the day. And, you can make friends in that area and play tennis with them. Don’t try to take your current friend to the suburbs.

The second way is to change your thoughts. If you were to get into a car accident and injure your leg, you won’t be able to play tennis even if you wanted to. You can’t die just because you’re in that situation. I guess you have to live in a wheelchair. When you  think about it that way, you feel grateful that you can play tennis with your good legs at least once a week. If you run out of money, you have to change your thinking like this.”

“When I think about how I’m living under pressure from my wife, I feel like, ‘Why should I  listen to that?’”

“If you keep thinking that way, one day you might get into a car accident and hurt both your legs, and only then will you think, ‘That’s what Sunim said.’ Even now, if you let go of your thoughts and feel grateful for having a healthy body, you can live a satisfied life by playing tennis about once a week. If you’re dying to play tennis, you can play during the day, even if it’s a bit hot. However, there is some risk in doing this as well. If you make all these sacrifices and your child gets bad grades or doesn’t listen to his parents, you will be very angry with your wife and child. 

‘I don’t even play tennis, which I love so much, and I make time for you, Wife and for you, Son, so why is this all you do?’

When you think you’ve sacrificed yourself, you place demands on the other person. There is a possibility that such demands may emerge as complaints in the future. But that’s your opinion, and your wife and child don’t think that way..

A person who lives away from her husband and travels abroad with her child for his education is called a ‘wild goose mother.’ However, most of the children who study abroad do not succeed in their studies. The mother, who traveled abroad for her child’s studies, has no husband nor friends, so she has no choice but to be obsessed with her child. So, she always has this mindset towards the child, ‘I do this for you, away from your father, but why don’t you study and do something else?’ So she has no choice but to nag her child a lot. But from her child’s perspective, he cannot understand his mother’s feelings. If he knows how to understand that, can he be said to be a child and not an adult? So the conflict between the mother and the child becomes more and more severe, and eventually the child begins to think these thoughts in his mind towards his mother.

‘Mom brought me here because she wanted to, and now she’s using me as an excuse to put the blame on me.’

However, when he gets angry, there comes a point where he has to say out loud what he was  thinking in his mind. That completely upsets his mother’s stomach. So her relationship with her child is not smooth. Why does this result occur? Because she thinks she is sacrificing.

Back in the old days, wives often thought, ‘I make sacrifices for my husband, but he doesn’t understand how I feel.’ Most wives who do not go to work want their husbands to take them out on weekends. Because they stayed home with the children all week. However, most working husbands would think, ‘I’ve been stressed out at work all week, so I want to rest on weekends, but my wife nags me every weekend.’ But her wife thinks, ‘Shouldn’t he make time at least on the weekend for me, who is stuck at home all week?’ Their perspectives were completely different.

Even after retirement, the pattern of marital conflict often remains similar. The husband might think, ‘I worked for 40 years at work, so now I deserve to relax,’ while wives may say, ‘When you were earning money, I took care of the housework and cooking, but now that you’re retired, why do I have to do all these chores?’ and gets angry. Therefore, conflicts become more severe after retirement. Because their perspectives are different.

Because you are also at risk of doing the same, I said, ‘Think of it as a car accident.’ If you keep thinking, ‘I persevered and devoted myself to my child and wife,’ the conflict is bound to get worse in the future.

The third way  is simply to play tennis as much as you want. If your wife criticizes it, you say, ‘I feel like I’m going to die if I don’t do this,’ and just keep playing tennis. You live your life doing everything you want to do. Then, if your wife packs her bags and leaves, this is a way to say ‘Goodbye’ to her.

‘If you accept me like this, we can live together, but if you can’t accept me like this, I can’t live with you either. I talked about this even before we got married. I can’t compromise on this issue,’ 

After talking to your wife like this, you just establish your boundaries and live accordingly.”

“My wife acknowledges that we had agreed before, but she said that it can change since we didn’t write a pledge. She says that child’s education has become more important now.”

“If a pledge had been written, the conflict would have become more severe. If you had written an agreement, you would have been more justified. There’s a saying that goes, ‘The state of mind when going to poop is different from the state of mind after pooping.’ Before marriage, the promise was made with the intent of getting married. However, once marriage has taken place, is there really a need to stick to that promise? The human mind is always changing like this. It is the human heart that things become this way at one time and that way at another time. The idea that a person’s heart must always be the same is wrong. Statements such as ‘the other person betrayed me’ and ‘the other person did not keep her promise’ are all wrong. Unless you’re a fraudster, you don’t make a promise from the beginning with the intention of breaking it. Most people aren’t fraudsters. That was how she felt then and this is how she feels now.

Think about it from your wife’s perspective. When you two didn’t have children yet, your wife embraced your hobby. But she thought that now that the child is older, the father and child need time together. Why did she feel that way? Now, the child is not listening to her. That’s why she wants to borrow her husband’s help. So you need to ask your wife what she wants her child to do and negotiate quietly with the child.

 ‘If you do what Mom wants, Dad will give you some allowance, and we’ll spend weekends together’

If you negotiate with your child like this, you can solve the problem wisely.  Claiming that I am justified because my wife promised me something before marriage, or complaining that I can’t pursue my hobby because of my beloved wife, these actions are not waking up to reality. It was like that in the past, but now things have changed. You need to focus on how to solve the problem wisely.

I can’t do everything I want, and I can’t give in to everything the other person asks. You need to talk to your wife about how best to  balance between those two things and come to a compromise. You also have to negotiate with your child. A wise person is one who lets go of himself and seeks a path in the here and now.”

“Thank you.”

After the questions and answers that followed, Sunim finally summarized today’s conversation.

“If life is suffering, shouldn’t we study why it is suffering? There is no set answer for how to live life. Everyone can live as they please. But the problem is, why are you suffering when you have lived your life the way you want? You all immigrated because you wanted to, and at first you were incredibly happy. But after a while, you say it’s painful. You say that you are suffering because of your work life while working at the company you wanted to work for. You say that you are suffering because of the store you opened because you wanted to. You say that you are suffering because of your married life, living with someone you married because you wanted to. All of these situations are contradictory.

If you get married because you like each other, why do you complain that marriage is painful? Isn’t this a topic that really needs to be studied? ‘Of all the men and women, I married the one I like the most, but why do I feel hateful and resentful?’ You hate your husband or wife, but you don’t think about studying him or her. So, I suggest you research why suffering occurs.

The Buddha’s teachings were not originally religious, but were teachings about ‘Why is it suffering?’ The Buddha is a person who studied the way to live without suffering. Where you go when you die or how you can become rich were not the Buddha’s concerns. Regardless of whether you are rich or poor, whether your status is high or low, these things aside, the most important question is, ‘How can I live a life without suffering?’ In other words, not suffering is called a ‘happy life.’ The happy life mentioned here is different in character from the joyful life. Because we treat pleasure as happiness, suffering inevitably follows.

A healthy life is a life without pain. Being healthy doesn’t mean you have to run faster than others in the 100-meter dash or be able to lift heavy weights that others can’t lift. Tall people are as tall as they are, short people as small, children as children, adults as adults, disabled people as they are, and if they are not sick, they are healthy. Similarly, if you are not suffering, you are happy. But because you treat pleasure as happiness, suffering always follows.

With a slight shift in perspective, regardless of religion, race, nationality, or gender, anyone can live without suffering. You can live without suffering alone or with others, whether you’re young or old, and even when your body experiences physical pain, you can still live without suffering.

If a person who lived a miserable life in Korea immigrated to the United States, will the suffering go away? If a person who was suffering when living alone gets married, will the suffering go away? Suffering does not occur temporarily, but the same suffering occurs as you live. Because you have karma. When we destroy karma, we can escape suffering and live a pain-free life. From that perspective, I hope you explore yourself a little more. But you shouldn’t think too much. Because all suffering comes from thoughts.

Anyone born into this world can live happily. I hope you don’t lose sight of this perspective and live your life. This is how one loves oneself. Stop looking at others and start loving yourself. I think you guys are torturing yourself too much.”

The Dharma Talk  ended with loud applause.

Tomorrow, Sunim will be traveling to Boston on a flight departing at 3:30 AM. In the afternoon, Sunim has a meeting scheduled at Harvard University, and in the evening, Sunim will be giving a Dharma Talk with English interpretation at Harvard University.